Unstreamable is a column that recommends movies and TV shows you can’t watch on major streaming services in the United States. We publish every Wednesday.
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This week, we’re going ALL ANIME in honor of Scarecrow’s blessed anime room.
Japan, 1997-1998, 25 half-hour episodes, Created by Kentaro Miura
Breathtaking, gruesome, and very very gay, this 1997 anime adaptation of the beloved manga series will exact a heavy emotional toll on anyone who views it, in part because its reclusive creator Kentaro Miura never really got the chance he deserved to see the full story represented on-screen.
It’s the story of a lone swordsman who joins a band of mercenaries in vaguely European fantasy-times; amidst violent battles that intertwine with the kingdom’s politics, our heroes battle demons both literal and metaphorical. Think Game of Thrones, but with tighter storytelling and a more infernal undercurrent.
Particularly enjoyable is the evolving relationship-triangle between Guts, our silent brooding muscleman; Griffith, the smooth slender leader of the gang; and Casca, Griffith’s tough-as-nails no-nonsense commander. Griffith’s all-consuming obsession outdoes Moby Dick’s Ahab, and the tragedy of the story becomes more and more unbearable as it progresses. There are fans who will claim there’s nothing queer about their flirtations, jealousies, and nude bathing … to which I say, sure, and Jesus was just really good friends with the disciples.
Don’t expect a comforting conclusion, at least not in this retelling which only covers a limited span of the original books. Without giving too much away, the season climaxes in scenes of such unspeakable horror that you may want to have a palate-cleanser prepared in advance. I’d suggest My Neighbor Totoro. Or Noozles. Don’t plan to watch Evangelion within a month of watching Berserk unless you have a round-the-clock therapist on call. MATT BAUME
Japan, 1989, 100 min, Dir. Mamoru Oshii
The Patlabor franchise is sick. A popular addition to the mecha genre, the Patlabor world includes large, human-like robots, named “Labors,” who essentially work in Amazon warehouses. The Labors produce labor more effectively than humans, but everyone is apparently surprised when Labors begin to randomly destroy buildings and commit crimes. Who’s responsible for the chaos? The robots? The programmers? The politicians? The conversation is a little too timely.
Patlabor: The Movie is a standout for the franchise, notably directed by Palme d’Or-nominated Ghost in the Shell director, Mamoru Oshii. Released in 1989 but set in 1999, the anime focuses on the tension between naughty Labors and the specialized Patrol Labors (get it, “Patlabor,” it’s a portmanteau) assigned to keep the Labors in check. Members of the back-up squad running Patrol Labors begin to suspect that a Labor programmer intentionally created software that would cause the Labors to go berserk. It’s surprising, philosophical, funny. It feels too real to be science fiction. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1985, 71 min, Dir. Mamoru Oshii
Plot really doesn’t matter in Mamoru Oshii’s Angel’s Egg—there are only four minutes of spoken dialogue—but I’ll throw you a bone: On a post-apocalyptic Earth, a girl lopes around an abandoned rainy city, fiercely protecting an unhatched egg. One day, she runs into a traveling warrior who’s interested in the egg, and he becomes her companion on her journey through the desolate city. They discuss her plan for the egg, Noah’s Ark, and the nature of reality and existence, but only verrrrry briefly.
Trying to understand the finer details of the plot isn’t the main objective here. Instead, let the mysterious and artful film’s environment entrance you; notice how the characters’ ghostly white skin and downcast eyes fit perfectly within the gothic ruins they move through. Some people believe this anime, full of symbolism, is how Oshii (of Ghost in the Shell fame) worked through losing his faith after turning his back on Christianity just before going into production. Angel’s Egg benefits from multiple viewings, and it’s emotionally obscure enough that you can glean whatever interpretation you see fit. JAS KEIMIG
Japan, 2006, 111 min, Dir. Michael Arias
It was the middle of a very bad Minnesotan winter, wind chills were 50 below zero, and I had farsickness. I couldn’t get the image of a place out of my head. It was a place I didn’t know but I could see the scenes: crowded streets with bright colors, electrical lines sagging in every direction, something like Where’s Waldo but somewhere like Taipei or Mexico City. The farsickness led me to Tekkonkinkreet.
The American-directed anime film is set in a florid megacity called Treasure Town, a neverending location with angled towers and crisscrossing trains. Buildings are weathered but still gaudy. Streets change every second. VIZ, the distributor of the original Tekkonkinkreet manga, describes Treasure Town’s “mean streets” as “punk rock meets fine art.” There’s a lot to say about it.
While Treasure Town is the body and spirit of the film, its plot follows two orphaned lost boys called White and Black. They fight to survive, navigating yakuza and crooked cops and supernatural headhunters. But despite the town’s meanness, it’s as playful as the film’s orphans. Like a wet Hello Kitty holding a pistol. Treasure Town is always where my imagination goes during hard winters. CHASE BURNS
If you’re reading this from New York City: Japan Society screens Tekkonkinkreet this Friday.
Looking for more? Browse our big list of 350+ hard-to-find movies over on The Stranger.
The fine print: Unstreamable means we couldn’t find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, Disney+, or any of the other hundreds of streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn’t find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don’t consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.